Hydroponic System: an innovative solution to increase food security in the Navajo Nation
Nurturing Plants aims to increase food accessibility and food sovereignty in the Navajo Nation. We have been hit hard by drought and climate change that has impacted our agriculture and water security. The Nation has become more reliant on food imports rather than growing their own traditional foods. We are classified as a food desert by the USDA, with only 13 grocery stores operating within the Navajo Nation. The stores operating predominantly offer highly processed foods with low nutritional value, poor quality, and higher prices than off-reservation stores. This contributes to low access to a grocery store and is associated with decreased shopping frequency and increased obesity prevalence that impacts the food security and health. The Navajo Nation food insecurity rates are among the highest reported in the United States, at 76.7%
Our solution is integrating an ebb & flow hydroponic system and is known as a flood and drain system. It is low-cost to set up and extremely versatile. The plants are placed in a 2-inch net pot, which is periodically filled with nutrient-rich water pumped out of a water storage. This system uses gravity to return water to the storage to be reused. This system requires little maintenance and produces food plants efficiently with little electricity or water use.
This low-cost system is feasible for rural areas and it is simple to assemble. The best way to deal with health issues regarding lack of nutritious food is to increase the diet of leafy greens and fruits which is difficult for Navajo families to access. We understand the need the communities don’t have the same access to fresh foods in other towns and we want to be there to help produce fresher produce right in their home to help feed and also remedy disease. This will not only combat health issues but also increase education about sustainability, nutrition, the environment, and traditional knowledge about the traditional foods being grown.